The Dunfermline Volunteers Bazaar

by Sue Mowat

The Dunfermline Volunteers

Old enmities cast long shadows. Although Napoleon had been defeated by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, British suspicions about French aspirations for European domination took a long time to fade. They re-awoke in 1859 when France declared war on Austria-Hungary. Could an invasion of Britain be next on the French hit-list?

If French forces were to cross the Channel extra men would be needed to augment the standing army  and the only way to recruit auxiliary troops without increasing taxation was to raise an unpaid force, so on 12 May 1859 the War Office sanctioned the formation of Volunteer Corps throughout the nation. Dunfermline rose to the challenge and on 2 November 1859 eleven gentlemen signed a ‘requisition’ (petition) to the Provost requesting the formation of a Volunteer Rifle Corps in the town. Twelve days later about 1500 townsfolk attended a public meeting in the Music Hall, where, amid immense enthusiasm, the Volunteer Corps was born, its first muster roll containing 218 names.

In those days amateur poets often celebrated events in the local press. Here is the first verse of a tongue-in-cheek effort by H, published in 1860.

Hark! the soul-arousing trumpet;
Loudly rolls the warlike drum;
See, where marching up the High Street,
Keeping step, the “Rifles” come.
Martial fellows! patriotic!
Garibaldis every one!
Heedless of all matters shop-ic,
Shoulders each his deadly gun

The picture is slightly inaccurate because in 1860 the Corps did not possess a ‘soul-arousing trumpet’ or a ‘warlike drum’, but this state of affairs was changed in the spring of 1861 by the formation of a Volunteers’ brass band. So far, so good, but there were costs involved in setting up the band and it had also been found that many Volunteers could not afford to buy a uniform. Subsidies had been handed out but funds were getting low

At a meeting early in March 1861 the Rifle Corps committee decided to hold a Bazaar to raise money to pay for instruments and uniforms. The Dunfermline Press commented ‘The main requirement in the matter is the co-operation of the ladies, and we are sure the proposal only requires to be brought before them to ensure that thoroughly.’ The Press was quite right. On 18 March ‘a numerously-attended meeting of ladies’ was held in the schoolroom of the Female Industrial School, on the ground floor of the Mason’s Hall in Queen Ann Place[1]. The meeting unanimously resolved to hold a Bazaar in aid of the Rifle Corps and recommended that it be held in September. The Corps committee had suggested June, but the ladies were rather more realistic about the time needed to organise a major event.

The Ladies

A committee of ladies was formed to organise the Bazaar. Initially they sought contributions for their stalls from their networks of relatives and friends, but by 21 May they were ready to solicit local contributions, by an advertisement in the Dunfermline Press that appeared weekly until 13 June. The ladies listed in the advertisement were all wives or relatives of founder members of the Corps who had signed the ‘requisition’ to the Provost in 1859. Mrs Erskine Beveridge, Priory House and Mrs Kenneth Mathieson, Comely Park Place each organised a stall individually. The rest of the ladies worked in pairs:

Mrs George Beveridge, Roseville Cottage and Mrs William Mathewson, Comely Park Place
Mrs William Gowan Dobie, Comely Park Place and Mrs John Duncanson, Buchanan St
Mrs Andrew Dewar, Viewfield Place and Miss Harrower, Canmore St
Mrs Robert Hay, Witchbrae Cottage and Mrs Peter Robertson, Viewfield

More Preparations

To encourage a good attendance the Rifle Corps committee arranged that on each day of the Bazaar the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee railway would sell return tickets to Dunfermline from all its stations at the price of a single. A similar arrangement was made for trains from Stirling, Alloa, Tillicoultry, Leslie and Kinross.

Admission to the Music Hall was more expensive on the Tuesday – 1s from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and 6d from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm. On the Wednesday the admission charge was 6d from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm and 3d from 3.00 pm to 9.00 pm . Admission charges raised a total of £64 12/7d

The Bazaar

The local press described the scenes in the Music Hall.

The Fife Herald 29 August 1861 (excerpts)

Around the hall were erected booths faced and fringed with flowers and evergreens, where the fair dealers had their wares for sale. Each booth had its sign in front – ‘Mrs Kenneth Mathieson’, Mrs Erskine Beveridge’, ‘Mrs Hay and Mrs P Robertson’ &c, &c.

The wares sold were of a very miscellaneous kind. Cushions of all sorts, those for the repose of the person and those for that of pins. Cloak-bags, portmanteaux, pin-woven (ie knitted on pairs of needles) shawls and wire woven (ie knitted on circular needles) stockings of all sizes. Nightcaps for the ‘human head divine’ and nightcaps for teapots called ‘cosies’. Dolls in female attire and dolls trimmed up as riflemen. Footstools, pencils, purses, very beautifully stitched or woven.

Amid all these there were provender for the body and provender for the mind – tarts, buns, sweet biscuits, sugar candy, grapes, ginger beer. And there were pictures and drawings, one by Noel Paton and a landscape by Waller Paton, both of them mere sketches but in their outlines betraying the hand of the original and accomplished artist.

At the upper end of the hall, below the platform, there was a press all the time busy at work, throwing off copies of a two-leaved journal made up for the occasion and full of local Punchisms of the wisest and wittiest character

Image of front page of The Penny Trumpet, courtesy Dunfermline Local History Library

The Penny Trumpet, courtesy Dunfermline Local History Library

The ‘two-leaved journal’ mentioned in the article was The Penny Trumpet, a two-page gently satirical newspaper produced specifically for the event. It proved so popular that a further edition was printed on the day after the Bazaar and sold in local bookshops  Sales raised £6, which at 240d to the £1 equals 1440 copies. Much of the humour relied on the knowledge of current news and local characters and much of it was somewhat ponderous, but there is a sample of some of the more accessible jokes at the end of this article.

The Dunfermline Monthly Advertiser for September 1861(excerpts)

In the neighbourhood of the Trumpet office was Aunt Sally’s entertainment, presided over by two gentlemen designed by nature for their work. No one could look upon their smiling countenances and refuse their insinuating invitation to have three throws for threepence. Aunt Sally bore her thumps with much good nature and contributed not only to the amusement of its visitors but also to the finance department. (Aunt Sally raised £7 1s or 294 3d-worths).

We can’t describe the stalls; they were so gorgeous. Everything was to be found that was nice and useful. The sales were made quite rapidly and the tills kept filling in a manner gratifying to behold. But the great sight was on Wednesday evening, when the hall was literally crammed by visitors – platform, gallery and floor were so full that locomotion was nearly impossible. And then was the time to get bargains.; on this side you would see lovely ladies calling your attention to such an elegant smoking cap, worth 30s and might be had for 10s; this beautiful baby’s robe all for 2s 6d.

On that side a gallant officer mounted on the top of his stall, auctioning razors and boot-jacks in a manner worthy of any Cheap John on a fair day. Then the Babel of tongues, the crash of the band, the clamour of the Aunt Sally men and the rattling of the Penny Trumpet’s tin pan of coppers mad a scene the like of which we never saw before and really believe we never will see again.

By nine o’clock everything was sold off, and the large amount of £650 was drawn. We believe the expenses will not be above the odd £50, thereby leaving a sum which we hope will be carefully husbanded, and serve the Riflemen for a long time to come.

The newly-formed Rifle Corps Band provided music – here is the Monthly Advertiser again:

….we would speak of the very admirable manner in which the band did their work. Considering the very short time the members have been receiving instruction from the teacher, Herr Weirter, it is really astonishing the great progress they have made. During the bazaar, Herr Weirter was present and conducted, and the softness and correctness of harmony with which some of our fine Scotch airs were executed speaks highly of the intelligence of the band and the ability of their teacher. They were without doubt one of the great attractions of the bazaar.


As well as selling directly, all the stallholders raffled their best articles and a list of prize-winners was given in the Dunfermline Press. (The figure in brackets is the amount raised by each stall.)

Mary Hay and Agnes Robertson (£98 10s)
Perambulator – Mr Francis Grier (manager of Elgin Colliery)
Fender stool – Mr Carr
Piano – Mr Kenneth Mathieson
Newstead Abbey (embroidered picture) – Mrs Greig, Aberdour
Maria Beveridge (£100 7/9d)
French cabinet – Mr T. N. Brown
Glass table – Miss Philp
Work table – won by herself
Musical box – Mr William Gibson
A beaver (hat?) – Mr Adam of Blair-Adam
A banner screen – Sir Thomas Erskine
Agnes Dobie and Helen Duncanson (£135 2/1d)
Elizabethan bed – Elizabeth Paterson, Burntisland
Clock – Miss Donaldson
Janet Beveridge and Mary Matthewson (£60 1/7d)
Wax flowers – Miss Heggie, Kirkcaldy
Wax fruit – Bailie Hay
Ottoman stool – Provost Whitelaw
Jessie Mathieson (£101 19/5d.)
Drawing room chair – Bailie Hay
Two pictures by Noel Paton – Mr Henry Bardner and Miss J Beveridge, Urquhart
Picture by Waller Paton ‘Pass of Killicrankie’ – Mr Hill, Glasgow
Portfolio and seven engravings after Raphael – Mr George Cowie
Chalmers History of Dunfermline 2 vols – Mr George Cowie
Eliza Dewar and Catherine Harrower
(£57 6/10d)
Embroidered Banner screen – Dr James Dewar
Embroidered Cushion – Mrs Hill, Leckerstone
Photographic views (presented by Mr Taylor, photographer, Kirkgate) – Mr John Menzies

Refreshments, organised by Mrs Traill and her helpers, raised £23. Mary Traill was the daughter of Robert Menzies, factor to Lord Elgin for 36 years. She had married Dr William Traill in 1852 and at the time of the Bazaar they were living in the Maygate with their three small children. When Dr Traill and is family moved to London in 1866, at the inevitable dinner and presentation given to him by some of the gentlemen of the town Mr Soutar (solicitor) proposed Mary’s health, remarking that ‘he had drunk more of Mrs Traill’s tea than of her husband’s medicine. He could say this, that a more hospitable, kind-hearted lady did not exist in the county of Fife.’

The various newspaper articles give an idea of the kind of refreshments provided at Mary Traill’s stall but the way in which she collected them together can only be speculated. Did she organise a mass bake-off among her friends’ cooks? Did she persuade local confectioners and bakers to donate cakes and biscuits? Did local brewers, taverns and hotels donate drink? However she did it she was obviously successful. There were no complaints about refreshments running out.

The smallest amount in the final tally, £3 15/8d, was raised by Mr Birrell, for the sale of flowers. As well as being Secretary of the Rifle Corps, Sheriff Clerk for West Fife and Treasurer of the Dunfermline Savings Bank, David Birrell was Vice Chancellor of the Ancient Society of Gardeners and founder member and Treasurer of the Dunfermline Horticultural Society. No doubt it was he who organised the decorations of the hall and the stalls and the money he raised was probably for selling off plants and flowers at the end of the second day.

Altogether the Bazaar raised £657 16/11d – in today’s money nearly £19,000.

The Dunfermline Press paid a well-earned tribute to the lady stall-holders and their contributors and assistants.

We have seldom seen a committee work so efficiently or so harmoniously. Some of the ladies had at command a greater amount of assistance than their associates and as a natural result larger receipts followed. But with the details of the proceeds of the various stalls before us it is really astonishing to discover that all have done so admirably.

We were particularly amused with the zeal with which certain young ladies prosecuted the canvas for their respective interests. No sooner did the fair eyes light upon a likely customer than he was instantly pounced upon and held by the button until what was wanted was surrendered. Though rather promiscuous in their favours in this way it was singular with what unerring sagacity any well-to-do bachelor was handled.

It would have been difficult indeed to have found any ladies committee to have done more than has been accomplished by the ten good and true women who realised these £657. Of course, when we name the ten we do not overlook their unnamed but invaluable assistants, not yet elevated to the position of matrons. It is no reflection upon either the zeal or ability of their seniors to assert that but for the irrepressible enthusiasm which they carried into the work of Tuesday and Wednesday, the splendid result on which we now congratulate them would not have been achieved.

It is not at all exaggerating to say that some hundreds of ladies have in one way or another contributed to the bazaar of the 1st Fifeshire Rifle Corps. What renders this service the more satisfactory is the fact that the aid has come from all classes. The rich have given of their abundance, while the less affluent have contributed as ability permitted most ungrudgingly.

In these days, when women are encouraged to look for paid employment outside the house, it is easy to denigrate the ladies of the past who focussed on caring for their homes and families, but we should not forget that a great many of them worked hard for a variety of good causes. Imagine the effort that went into organising, in less than six months, an event that raised the equivalent of £19,000. The Volunteer Bazaar was probably the most successful one held in Dunfermline in the 19th century, but there were others that involved just as much work on the part of the organisers. There were also a number of charitable organisations that were run by women. Because a lot of this voluntary work went unrecorded either in the press or by the minutes of meetings it is easy to overlook it. We are fortunate that the Bazaar did arouse the interest of the local press so that we can be reminded that many of the ladies of the past were far from idle and contributed significantly to the life of Dunfermline.

The Ladies, who they were

Mrs Erskine Beveridge was Erskine’s second wife, Maria Elizabeth Wilson daughter of an English farmer. The couple lived in Priory House, near the bottom of the New Row, with Erskine’s two adult daughters from his first marriage and their own three young children. This area at the bottom of the New Row might be called the ‘cradle’ of the Dunfermline Volunteers. There was Erskine Beveridge in Priory House and just over the road, in the new street of Comely Park Place, lived four more of the founder members. William Gowan Dobie was manager of Erskine Beveridge’s factory, William Mathewson was another linen manufacturer whose Bothwell Works in Elgin Street rivalled the Beveridge works in size and Kenneth Mathieson was a railway contractor, town councillor and future Provost. Another founder member, Thomas Tuckett the roads surveyor for West Fife, also lived in Comely Park Place. What is more, the Gowan Dobies, Mathewsons and Mathiesons were interrelated. Mrs Gowan Dobie was Agnes Mathewson, her sister Jessie was married to Kenneth Mathieson and William Mathewson was their brother.

William Mathewson’s wife was Mary Spedding, the daughter of an excise officer. Her parents had been married in Torryburn but excise officers moved around a lot and she and one of her brothers were born at Kingussie. The next three children were born at Orwell and her youngest brothers, William and David, in Ireland. She and William Mathewson had been married in Ireland in 1847.

Mary Mathewson’s co-worker was Janet Spowart, the widow of  George Beveridge who had been a partner with his brother Thomas in a drapery business in Bridge Street. George and Janet were married in July 1834 but eighteen months later he died, leaving Janet with one son, James, who in adulthood qualified as a doctor and moved to London. In the 1861 Census Janet is described as a fund-holder, so her husband may have left money, but she also came from a wealthy family. Her father had been James Spowart, owner of Wellwood Colliery and her brother Thomas owned both the Wellwood and the Elgin collieries and the estate of Broomhead.

Agnes Dobie’s pair, Helen Sanderson, was also the wife of a draper – John Duncanson whose shop was on the south side of Bridge Street, two doors down from the Town House (the family lived in Buchanan Street). Her husband was very much alive. He was currently one of the bailies, a member of both the Police Commission and the Parochial Board and was also one of the managers of the Dunfermline National Savings Bank.

Mrs Andrew Dewar, Eliza Durie, was the only daughter of the late Charles Durie of Craigluscar and granddaughter of James Smith Ronaldson, a former Provost of Dunfermline. In 1861 she had only been married to Dr Andrew Dewar for two years. They lived in the fashionable area of Viewfield Place and the first of their seven children, Andrew Robert Dewar, was a year old. The middle-aged Catherine Harrower was probably paired with the 23-year-old Eliza because of Eliza’s relative inexperience in organising large events. Miss Harrower, a daughter of James Harrower of Inzievar, had kept house for James McFarlane, widower of her sister Agnes, for the past twenty years. James’ father the Rev Mr James McFarlane had been the minister of the Erskine church and James himself was an active member of that congregation, so his sister-in-law would have been involved in all its social and money-raising activities.

Mary Stenhouse Robertson daughter of a linen manufacturer, was the second wife of Robert Hay, her brother William’s partner in the linen manufacturing firm of Hay and Robertson, which, at a time when power loom works were being established in Dunfermline, still employed only handloom weavers. Robert Hay himself was currently a bailie, along with John Duncanson. At the age of 35 Mary was an experienced matron and that may be one reason whey she was been paired with Agnes Wilson (Mrs Peter Robertson).

Although Agnes Robertson was aged 27 and therefore no longer a ‘young wife’ her background was very different from that of all the other ladies. They came from affluent families and even before marriage would have been accustomed to organising staffs of servants and taking part in fund-raising for good causes. Agnes Wilson was the daughter of a Limekilns mariner, James Wilson, who had died at some time in the 1840s leaving a widow and three young children. At the time of the 1851 census Agnes, at the age of 18, was taking in sewing to support her mother and her younger brother and sister. It was probably through her work that she met the young draper Peter Robertson. Peter’s father was Robert Robertson, a Dunfermline draper and currently Provost, although Peter himself was running a shop in North Queensferry. He and Agnes were married in 1855 and by 1861 were living at Viewfield House with three young children and a maidservant. Agnes’ skill with the needle would have been very valuable to the Bazaar committee but she would have needed help with other aspects of organising the event.


The Penny Trumpet

The Leading Journal

of Human Progression & Electro-Biology


The Authorised Advocate of Women’s Rights

And Husbands’ Wrongs


THE BAZAAR will be Opened on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY from Ten Morning till Nine Evening.

All parties on entering the HALL will pay their Entrance-Money and all Persons found with Money in their Pockets while leaving, will be immediately Apprehended and given into the Custody of the nearest Lady Stall-keeper.

A Guard of Honour will attend and the Brass Band of the Corps will discourse some of its choicest pieces.

Dunfermline Volunteers in Uniform admitted at all times


Dunfermline August 24 1861


Though there is a slight demand for a few things in general and everything in particular, it is remarkable that confections, pastry and cherry brandy are going rapidly down while lemonade and soda water are brisk; champagne rising;

In crochet work a tidy trade is doing. Night and smoking caps bring topping prices. Extensive transactions in crinolines – quotations stiff. Bosom friends in abundance, to be picked up with a little trouble at easy rates. The demand for literature is quite stationary. Drawing room chairs and cushions easy. Violins rather slow. Slippers and pen-wipers, the supply large, the demand imperative. In horticulture, a good demand for hothouse plants and a keen competition for tall evergreens.




THE MATRONS of the various STALLS respectfully announce to the YOUNG MEN of Dunfermline and Neighbourhood that, at the conclusion of the BAZAAR having no further use for their YOUNG ASSISTANTS, they will be Disposed of by Private Bargain or (if no Offers are given) they will be Exposed for Sale by Public Roup.

The Advertisers consider it superfluous to dilate on the various attractions of the Goods, knowing well that they only require to be seen to be appreciated.



CHARLESTOWN  August 20 – Wind, N.N.S, Gentle Zephyrs – Arrived, the Dunfermline Omnibus and John White’s Salt Cart, cargo, hedgehogs. The Richard’s Van, Barber, left here six months ago and has not been heard of. It is supposed to have foundered in the late gales.

CROMBIEPOINT August 24 – The Great Eastern, proceeding to Clackmannan for coals, sprang a leak and put in here last night for repairs. Our indefatigable wheelwright is doing its job well.

August 27 – Last night the General Burgoyne passed the bar and ran ashore by the Cannon, but has been helped off by the Peeler A1 and proceeded


A BACHELOR of a certain age, very good looking, very independent and not at all particular, is wiling to entertain certain Proposals from any Lady not above eighty, who has got £10,000 a year at her own disposal which she is prepared to settle on an eligible partner for life. The Advertiser may be seen this Day, in the Music Hall, from Two to Three, and may be known by a red rose in his button hole and white cambric handkerchief in his breast pocket.

Address Captain HARDUP, Post Office, Hall


GRINDERS – Brushing the teeth is not injurious to health and we never knew of a case of gout having been caused by it.

QUERY – The Great Eastern is a steam-ship. We fear she is rather large to be hired for a pic-nic party but perhaps in these dull times the directors might let you have her for the day.

M. SOYER – To preserve meat from tainting, the best plan is to eat it all before it has time to become so.


[1] This building was demolished to allow the formation of the goods access road to the Kingsgate Shopping Centre from Pilmuir St. Queen Anne Place has also been known as Schoolend Street and Bath Street.  The very successful Female Industrial School provided education for poor girls. It had been initiated by, and continued to be run by, a committee of ladies.